Dear soft hearted loves,
This week we are back to treating burnout. However, this time let’s look at dismantling sexism and colonialism to prevent burnout from happening in the first place. Society unfortunately seems to expect people to do more than their supposed to do especially if they are perceived as or assigned as feminine or a woman or a person of color (POC). Colonialist principles expected POC to be enslaved and smiling about it. For example, when I moved to California I was saddened to see Mission San Jóse with paintings of First Nations Peoples or Indigenous People smiling while they did the colonialist’s work. Colonialists made slavery and colonialism look like a choice and like a job in these paintings. It is outrageous that these are pieces of “art” being displayed as late as 2018 in California. This devastating colonialism is part of our very recent roots in the United States. There are tremendous tree trunks, leaves, and fruit that have grown from these recent roots and society continues to expect feminine people and POC to do more for less.
People portraying enslavement and colonialism as a joyful job in a painting at Mission San Jóse is horrific and we know many other examples of how colonialism and sexism show up in the work place such as unequal pay. Of course womyn and POC may experience burnout with the weight of the country on their shoulders.
We can prevent some of this burnout by getting to those roots in every work meeting, every interaction, and every step of the way from home to work and back. We can prevent more burnout through dismantling colonialism and sexism in the workplace and home especially for White presenting folx like myself.
As a White presenting person I want to both acknowledge my privilege and dismantle racism and sexism, including at work. It can be everywhere from smaller actions to more large-scale actions. It can be as micro as looking at who you serve and how you welcome other women and POC into the field to as large scale as bringing systems issues to attention.
Micro ways of addressing colonialism and sexism at my jobs include and are not limited to leaving on time, taking breaks, referring patients with equity, and acknowledging my privilege in the therapy room. This ensures that I do not perpetuate the work harder for less money and commitment to equity.
Macro ways of dismantling colonialism and sexism in this context include changing systems to be more inclusive, “inviting in” by introducing yourself at meetings with pronouns and acknowledging other layers of privilege, and confronting internal and external isms at work daily. Ensuring we don’t wait for someone else to address these wounds means we could be preventing someone from feeling knocked down, burdened, exhausted and burned out by the colonialist, sexist systems.
Preventing burnout in the first place is somewhat less discussed than identifying a burnout recovery plan. As we return to some activities that may feel safe to return to and as we connect more in person folx report more and more burnout to me daily. We must look at what we can do now to treat those burns and also address the cause of much of our burnout. If people are treated with equity we have a chance at preventing burnout. Dismantling colonialism and sexism is the mental health remedy for burnout.